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Japan's ANA to consider delay risk when choosing Boeing or Airbus

All Nippon Airways' (ANA) planes are seen at Haneda airport in Tokyo January 29, 2013. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

By Tim Kelly and Kentaro Sugiyama

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese carrier ANA Holdings <9202.T>, will consider the risk of delivery delays when choosing between Airbus's (EAD.PA) A350 and Boeing Co's (BA) yet to be launched 777X for an order of as many as 30 wide-body jets, it said on Thursday.

U.S. planemaker Boeing has a more than 80 percent market share in Japan and has dominated for decades helped by strong ties to suppliers there.

But delays to deliveries of its 787 jet, which is a third built in Japan, and its subsequent grounding because of overheating batteries may have given European rival Airbus a rare opening, analysts have said.

"In the past, aircraft development used to be more on schedule, but lately there have been delays," ANA's president, Shinichiro Ito, said in an interview.

"Possible delays is something we will consider," he added, saying ANA would decide between the Boeing and Airbus aircraft by around April and that it would also look at other factors such as price and which aircraft makes most economic sense.

The order will replace ANA's aging long-haul Boeing 777 fleet, which it plans to retire from 2020. Local rival Japan Airlines <9201.T> too is looking to phase out its older 777 at the same time, representing a combined order from the Japanese carriers of around 50 jets worth billions of dollars.

Industry analysts believe Airbus may have a better chance with ANA than JAL. Unlike JAL, ANA has bought from Airbus before and, with the world's biggest fleet of 787s, ANA has been hurt more by glitches that have troubled Boeing's carbon fiber jet.

Concerned its European rival is gaining ground, Boeing has countered with a sales offensive aimed at closing Airbus's window of opportunity, sources told Reuters this month.

Choosing Boeing's 777X, a proposed upgraded version of the 777, could mean ANA and JAL having to be launch customers again for a jet that the U.S. planemaker has promised for 2019, but has yet to officially green-light.

Airbus is offering the first variant of its new A350, the -900, which is being flight tested and is scheduled for first deliveries from 2016, to replace the Boeing 777-200s. It is also pushing the upcoming larger -1000 to replace the 777-300 family.

Boeing is offering the largest variant of the 787, the -10, as well as the 777X, that it says will have lower operating costs and longer range.

Boeing and Airbus have declined to comment on the negotiations.

(Editing by Mark Potter)